From Up on Poppy Hill/Kokuriko-zaka kara (2011)

ポスター_B1_free [更新済み]I think I was too excited about From up on Poppy Hill (2011) which I had already read wasn’t one for everyone. I think I fall into the Not “for everyone” category. I’m not surprised, I’m not mad over a few of the Studio Ghibli films, you can’t like all the films a studio makes, sadly this isn’t one that warms my cockles as much as Ponyo (2008/10) or My Neighbour Totoro (1988) which I came away feeling all warm inside. The Ghibli films that excite me are placed in fantastical worlds, full of incredible sequences which really engage me.

That’s not to say I wasn’t engaged at all with Poppy Hill I was just not to that same level that I found with a cheeky peak of The Wind Rises (2013) which was dream-sequence on Film4Once again focusing on a young teenage girl who was practically running a family home whilst her mother was away in America. It’s her Umi Matsuzaki time at high-school which is the centre of this young romance between her and a boy Shun Kazama. Set against the backdrop early 1960’s Japan, still recovering from WWII and the Korean war. Construction of the 1964 Olympic games is under way in Tokyo, Japan is on the up. With all this going on that maybe escapism is not really appropriate somehow?

Whilst at the high school the boys are fighting to save their clubhouse from demolition. With some female influence started by Umi both boys and girls get their act together and clean up the old club house, having strong ideas to not loose their link to the past. A very adult and powerful idea. With all this community spirit going on at school, there is a budding relationship growing. It’s very gentle and innocent, all based on feelings more than gestures which we usually find. It’s the age of the students that both restricts and frees up the film to be more.

A complication arrises between the two, something that you wouldn’t expect to find in animation. Handled sensitively by director Goro Miyazaki  son of the great Hayao Miyazaki who is now retiring after his last film being released just recently. There is a seamless passing of the baton from father to son, who leaves his own mark on the story telling. Instead of the fantasy there is a legacy which explains the complications between Umi and Shun who believe they are siblings. It’s their understanding of the past that gets in the way of their future together. 

I came away relieved by the resolution which could have been far darker and depressing had the explanation not be given. Leaving the audience out in the cold. It’s a gentle film set against a country in the midst of great change, still dealing with two wars complete with its own complications for our protagonists who want to be together. Is this a change in direction for the studio as it enters a new era, post Hayao Miyazakidealing more adult themes? I know it has never shied away from its countries past, this is just exploring it even further.

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